Margaret Millar’s Beast in View opens with thirty-year-old Helen Clarvoe receving an unnerving, vaguely threatening phone call from a woman who claims to have once been her friend. Clarvoe is the sole daughter of a wealthy Southern California family whose dysfunction will be familiar to readers of the Lew Archer mysteries written by Millar’s husband, Ross Macdonald. The time is 1955, the place, Los Angeles. Miss Clarvoe, estranged from her mother and brother, spends most of her days alone in her room in the Monica Hotel, her door “locked against the ugliness of the world.
This is one brutal book, and a damn good one. Slim writes with a fire that you rarely see even from great authors at their best. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything, nor does he lace his narrative with apologies to reassure delicate readers. He simply gives a straightforward account of a cruel world in which the cruelest rise to the top… at least for a while. The book takes place mostly on the south side of Chicago between the late 1930s and the late 1950s.
I just finished a draft of a new novel, tentatively titled Evidence of Aggression. This one features a strong female lead who gets caught up unawares in a Hitchcock-style thriller that unfolds in my old hometown of Washington, DC. Think North by Northwest in current day DC, with a sharp, strong-willed woman in the Carey Grant role. My heroine’s stength lies in her strong mind, unusual powers of observation, and ability to keep her cool and think her way out of tough situations.
Margaret Millar was best known for her mystery and suspense novels. Wives and Lovers, published near the height of her career in 1954, is somewhat of a departure. The story takes place in Channel City, a thinly veiled version of Santa Barbara where Millar lived with her husband, mystery writer Ross MacDonald. If you come to this this book expecting a hook and an immediately engaging plot, you’ll be frustrated. Wives and Lovers is set of interwoven character studies and a sociological portrait of a fairly wealthy small city in mid-century California.
To Hell with Johnny Manic is on sale this week on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Johnny Manic combines the old-school crime fiction of Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson with the multi-layered deceptions of Gone Girl. “A truly riveting tale of deception, murder and psychological suspense. One of the year’s best thrillers.” - BestThrillers.com “A feverishly readable psychological noir.” - Kirkus Reviews You can get a copy for 99 cents, Oct. 14-20, 2019, through the button below.
My next book will be available on November 1, 2019. Wake Up, Wanda Wiley is a romantic comedy with a twist of satire and magical realism. Here’s the summary: Hannah Sharpe has been written out of all eighteen of Wanda Wiley’s romance novels. A runaway heroine who won’t conform to the plots laid out for her, Hannah has been consigned to a realm of fog deep in the recesses of the author’s imagination.
Margaret Millar’s Vanish in an Instant opens with a rich, cranky old woman arriving at the Detriot airport in December, 1950 to try to extricate her spoiled daughter, Virginia, from some trouble. It takes a chapter or so for us to learn that the trouble is the violent murder of a local philanderer with whom Virginia was having an affair. Millar has the reader and most of the characters off balance from the beginning, creating an instant air of suspense that continues to deepen throughout the book.
Eight Million Ways to Die is the fifth in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder detective series. You don’t need to have read any others in the series to follow this one. Scudder is a former New York City cop who quit the force after accidentally killing a child while pursuing two thieves. By the time the book begins, he has long since left his family, and has been living for years in a mid-town Manhattan hotel.
Dopefiend by Donald Goines opens in a shooting gallery on the east side of Detriot. The time is around 1970. The obese drug dealer, Porky, sits in an easy chair watching his customers shoot up, nod off, scratch themselves, and bleed. Goines, himself a heroin addict, describes the scene in disturbing sensual detail, with the dirty works and clogged needles soaking in water glasses, the blood-stained floor, and the stench of human filth rising from junkies too far gone to take care of themselves.
Black Money is the thirteenth book in Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series. It opens with Archer discussing the terms of a new case over lunch at a tennis club in the fictional coastal town of Montevista, CA, an hour or so south of Los Angeles. The client, Peter Jamieson, is twenty-four years old, rich, depressed, and increasingly fat as he eats away the sorrows of a broken engagement. Jamieson wants Archer to investigate his former lover’s new fiance, a supposedly wealthy Frenchman named Francis Martel, who Jamieson and a number of others suspect is a fraud.
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